Obama sets stage for long-term reforms

President Barack Obama addresses a prime-time press conference on his 100th day in office in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: As you may or may not have heard, that makes today President Obama's 100th day in office. The White House has been saying for the past couple of weeks it doesn't put much stock in all the hullabaloo over 15 lousy weeks on the job. But they are riding the media wave all the same.

The president took a quick trip to Missouri today for a town hall meeting amid coverage on all the cable news channels. Tonight in the East Room back at the White House it was another prime-time press conference. Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale joins us. Hey John.

John Dimsdale: Hello Kai.

Ryssdal: Start it off with the flu, the president did, and then sort of got right into the economy, didn't he?

Dimsdale: Yes, he had an opening statement where he said that he was proud of what he accomplished in the first hundred days, but not satisfied. He seems to be setting the stage for some longer-term reforms, saying you know, the first hundred days were characterized by emergencies -- especially an economic emergency, banks, auto companies, mortgage foreclosures. And now, for the next hundred days and beyond, he's talking about a new foundation for coming up with fixes for health care or climate change or tax reform.

President Barack Obama: We can't go back to an economy that's built on a pile of sand, on inflated home prices and maxed-out credit cards, on over-leveraged banks and outdated regulations that allow recklessness of a few to threaten the prosperity of all. We have to lay a new foundation for growth.

Ryssdal: And in fact John, he jumped right into that legislative agenda next, didn't he?

Dimsdale: That's right. He said the deficits are too high, the government is not efficient. He expects to work on health care and energy and a few other things.

President Obama: I expect to sign legislation by the end of this year that sets new rules of the road for Wall Street. Rules that reward drive and innovation, as opposed to shortcuts and abuse. And we will also work to pass legislation that protects credit card users from unfair rate hikes and abusive fees and penalties.

Ryssdal: Speaking of rules for the road, John, the very first question that he got that was not flu-related was in fact about Chrysler and the deadline that's coming up tomorrow night for that company -- to either fix it or declare bankruptcy.

Dimsdale: That's right. You know, we expect some sort of announcement tomorrow morning. Supposedly the speech writers at the White House have prepared two sets of remarks. One that announces a deal with auto workers and a merger with Fiat. And the other that says everything has failed and bankruptcy has become the only solution. So the president was asked this evening about Chrysler's future and he sounded positive.

President Obama: I am actually very hopeful, more hopeful than I was 30 days ago that we can see a resolution that maintains a viable Chrysler auto company out there. What we've seen is the unions have made enormous sacrifices, on top of sacrifices that they have previously made.

Ryssdal: John, maybe it's just me, but he's kind of giving away the farm there, right? We know which way these negotiations are going now, don't we?

Dimsdale: It certainly seems like that. I mean, he's obviously putting some pressure on all the stakeholders here to come to the table and keep talking.

Ryssdal: What do you make of the fact that this is the third, maybe the fourth, prime-time press conference the president has had. All the previous ones were very heavily centered on the economy. And this time really, there was a much wider range of questions. What are your thoughts?

Dimsdale: Well I think that maybe we are moving beyond the economic emergency that really dominated in the first hundred days. And the president is also trying to come back to one of the big failures of his first hundred days and that's bipartisanship. You know, that's something that he campaigned on, something he promised as a priority and it really hasn't happened. But that's still a priority for President Obama.

Ryssdal: The economics of politics in Washington. John Dimsdale in our Washington bureau for us. Thank you, John.

Dimsdale: Thank you, Kai.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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